Premiership stars in limbo as Wales names November squad

by AAP

Wales could be without their England-based players for next month's opening end of year Test against Australia in Cardiff next month because of an eligibility row.

The November 5 fixture takes place outside of World Rugby's official window for Tests, meaning clubs are not obliged to release players for the fixture.

English Premiership clubs have an agreement with England's Rugby Football Union that allows England to select players for matches outside the window, but it has no such deal with the Welsh Rugby Union.

Taulupe Faletau is returning from injury. Photo: Getty ImagesAs a result, the likes of Bath duo of Taulupe Faletau (currently injured) and Luke Charteris could miss the Australia fixture.

But after announcing his squad on Tuesday, Wales interim head coach Rob Howley said Northampton wing George North and Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts had told him they would be available to face the Wallabies.

It may be that the two players have specific release clauses in their club contracts, but Premiership Rugby -- the umbrella body for England's 12 top-flight clubs -- have shown no sign of relaxing their general policy.

Northampton was fined the last time it released North for Tests outside the official window. Photo: Getty ImagesAnd the last time Northampton released North for a Test outside the international window, in 2013, they ended up with a £60,000 fine for breaching Premiership rules. "We've had no formal conversations with any of the English clubs, but having spoken to the players, they are available to play," Howley said.

"Some of them are available for the Australia game, and we will have to make sure we pick from the availability.

"The players who I have spoken to are the likes of Jamie, George and Toby (Taulupe Faletau).

Toby is injured, but Jamie and George, as far as we are concerned having spoken to them, are available for the Australia game.

"There has been no formal communication between ourselves and PRL (Premiership Rugby Limited)."

Leigh Halfpenny has overcome injury to feature for Toulon in recent weeks. Photo: Getty ImagesWales have lost their last 11 games against Australia, although six of those defeats were by five points or fewer.

Experienced backs Leigh Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert make their return for their country after their respective injury struggles, along with backrower Dan Lydiate, who was also included. Halfpenny has not played an international since suffering knee ligament damage before last year's World Cup.

"It's great to be able to welcome back experienced players such as Dan Lydiate, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny, who have missed out recently with injury and that experience will be important this autumn," Howley said.

Faletau injured a knee in his club debut for Bath in September and is not expected back in training until mid-November, but Howley said his experience would still be of value to the squad.

Wales squad

Forwards: Scott Andrews, Tomas Francis, Rhys Gill, Gethin Jenkins, Samson Lee, Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Kristian Dacey, Ken Owens, Jake Ball, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Rory Thornton, Dan Baker, Taulupe Faletau, James King, Dan Lydiate, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (capt)

Backs: Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Lloyd Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, Sam Davies, Jonathan Davies, Tyler Morgan, Jamie Roberts, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos, Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Liam Williams